AUSTIN, Texas — The NTSB is investigating a near-crash between a FedEx cargo jet and a Southwest Airlines flight to Cancun early Saturday morning at ABIA.
CBS Austin talked to an aviation expert about what happened exactly. “It's not possible at the moment to say exactly how close they were,” said Ian Petchenik, director of communications for Flightradar24.com. An animated graphic released by the company illustrates what happened based on the preliminary data that is available. The orange line on the ground is Southwest Flight 708, and at six seconds into the animation, the SWA plane turns onto the runway. In air traffic control audio obtained by CBS Austin, an air traffic controller clears the plane for takeoff.
But shortly before that, the FedEx jet had been cleared to land on the same runway. Ten seconds into the animation, the FedEx jet, represented by orange dots in the air, is shown descending toward the runway. Seventeen seconds in, the FedEx plane reaches its closest point above and behind the Southwest plane. “As the Southwest aircraft accelerated down the runway and as the FedEx aircraft came into land, they were about a thousand feet horizontally apart,” said Petchenik.
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Just seconds away from disaster, the FedEx pilots initiated what is called a go-around. “Throttles are pushed fully forward, and the aircraft begins to climb as soon as it’s safe to pull the nose up,” Petchenik explained.
The southwest flight took off safely. passengers may not have ever known how close they came to disaster, landing safely in Cancun two and a half hours later.
The FedEx plane landed at ABIA a few minutes after the incident.